What had been an annual event at Saratoga Casino Hotel for years, returns to the track this week following a four year hiatus. The Independence Day celebration that had become a kickoff to the summer season at the Spa always featured what was largely accepted as maybe the best fireworks display in the area. “Fireworks night” came to an end after its last installment back in 2013. Or so it seemed. After four years without one, Saratoga Casino Hotel will once again feature the fireworks extravaganza following racing on July 3rdto kick off what will be a big month at the Spa. In addition of course to the start of the thoroughbred meet across the street, Saratoga Casino Hotel’s two biggest nights of the year both take place in July. Fireworks night is the first of the two featured summer evenings as the fan-friendly event always attracts a big crowd. Just a few weeks afterwards, Saturday July 21stis another night of racing you won’t want to miss. That evening will feature a star-studded program highlighted by the tenth annual Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace. What began as a series became an individual, invitational pace in 2013. In ’13 and then again in ’14, the all-time track record was set in the Gerrity, a record that is currently held by Dancin Yankee who dazzled the fans with a 1:48.4 victory in the Gerrity. In 2016, National Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit took part, and cruised to victory, in the Gerrity. Just who will come to town to partake in the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace in 2018, we’ll soon find out but one thing we know is that it will be another summer night at the Spa that you won’t want to miss.
The unofficial kickoff of summer at Saratoga is this Tuesday night and though the evening will be highlighted by what will no doubt be an incredible fireworks display after the races, there are several other attractions for the fans including food vendors, live music, drawings and contests. On opening day of the 2018 campaign, the track featured a guaranteed pool for the pick five. In honor of the 77thracing season at Saratoga, there was a $7,777 pick five guarantee and on Tuesday evening, that figure will once again be guaranteed for the pick five which starts in the sixth race. In addition, there will be a “Trifecta Bonanza” for the Independence Day celebration. With the purchase of a live racing program on Tuesday, you will receive your “triple” number. If your lucky trifecta numbers match the first three finishers of any Saratoga Harness race that evening, you win! Match in exact order in any race and win a $100 betting voucher. Match in random order (a triple box), and win a $20 betting voucher. And who knows, your numbers could be good in several races on the card! A similar promotion has taken place before for those on the racing mailing list. There will be a coupon in your program as well if you want to join that mailing list to be eligible for future promotions.
Tuesday’s thirteen race program will feature four Independence Day-themed finals of “mini series’” that began in recent weeks. Two of the patriotic finals will go for purses of $20,000 while the other pair will be contested for $15,000. The series’ were designed to give horses who haven’t tallied big earnings this year, or last, to compete against each other for purses much higher than they would regularly race for. Veteran driver Brian Cross will pilot the morning line favorite in both the $20,000 Star Spangled Trot and the $15,000 Stars and Stripes Pace. Cross will drive trotter All That Dazzle for his brother, trainer John Cross, as the mare drew the rail for the Star Spangled Trot following a wire-to-wire romp that came in 1:58.1. Her major danger will be Noble Dunn who has been on the upswing since joining trainer Paul Dudka’s barn and teaming up with reinsman Wally Hennessey last month. Noble Dunn was the fastest of the winners of the week that saw these trotters compete for their spot to go for the big money this Tuesday. Cross will sit behind Scott Mongeon trainee Michaels Boy in the Stars and Stripes Pace Final as the youngster looks to continue the strongest stretch of his career. Michaels Boy will serve as the one to beat while coming into the race as a winner of three in a row, including a pair of lifetime-best 1:53.4 scores. His chief challenger, and fellow qualifying leg winner, Panedictine drew the rail for Tuesday and will thus serve as the chief challenger to Michaels Boy.
The other two Tuesday finals will feature big time favorites as the Jim Nickerson-trained Star Of Terror drew the rail in the $20,000 Freedom Pace final off a 6+ length romp in the qualifying leg. Jimmy Devaux will drive Star Of Terror who will no doubt be an overwhelming favorite in the final. Gary Levine’s KZ Crazee dominated his division of the Independence Trot as she jogged by close to eight lengths in career-best fashion with leading driver Billy Dobson in the sulky. Though she drew post five for Tuesday’s final, KZ Crazee will be an odds-on choice as she competes for what will be the biggest purse that she and many of these horses have ever raced for.
The racing calendar added this Tuesday July 3rdIndependence Day card which replaced the originally scheduled 4thof July racing. Also, there will be no Thursday matinee this week with racing resuming on Friday night as per normal. July features Fireworks night, the Gerrity Pace, on an evening that also includes New York Sire Stakes action for three year old pacing colts, as well as several other nights of New York Sire Stakes action as summer goes into full swing at the Spa. Come on out and enjoy a family friendly evening on Tuesday, which is a great one for the horse bettors as the pick five guarantee and Trifecta Bonanza contest highlight the Independence Day celebration as Fireworks night makes its return after a several year hiatus to kick off a summer of excitement at Saratoga Casino Hotel.
Live racing takes place this week on Tuesday starting at 5pm then resumes with evening cards on Friday and Saturday beginning at 6:45pm. There are a few Sunday matinees remaining until afternoon racing stops for a six week period of time. First post time on Sunday is set for 12:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!